A solicitor who witnessed the signature of a woman impersonating his client’s ex-wife has been fined £20,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

Andrew James Daverson, admitted in 2007, was head of conveyancing at Gateshead firm Tait Farrier Graham when he was contacted by ‘Mr X’ about a loan to be secured against a house jointly owned by him and his ex-wife, ‘Ms Y’.

According to the statement of agreed facts and indicated outcome, Daverson told the lender’s solicitors that he was acting for both Mr X and Ms Y in respect of the loan. However, Ms Y did not know that Daverson had been instructed until four months after the loan documentation had been signed, when she received a letter from the lender demanding full repayment.

In the document submitted to the tribunal, Daverson said that Mr X had initially attended the firm alone to sign the relevant loan paper work, claiming his ex-wife was at their child’s sports day. When told that Ms Y would also have to be present as the loan was in joint names, Mr X returned with woman who purported to be his ex-wife, and Daverson witnessed her signature. He later accepted ‘he had not met the genuine Ms Y’. 

According to the statement of agreed facts, Daverson ‘failed to carry out basic documentary identification’ having ‘witnessed and processed the loan paperwork, and subsequently paid out the money out to Mr X, without any identification documents or documentary due diligence being obtained at any stage in relation to the person purporting to be Ms Y (or in relation to Mr X)’. Daverson said he witnessed the documents on the basis that identity documents would be forthcoming.

Ms Y, who still lived in the house in question, said ‘problems with the loan caused her a lot of upset’ and she had suffered ‘high levels of stress’. In mitigation, Daverson submitted that he had an otherwise unblemished career and had shown ‘insight, remorse and regret’.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority alleged that Daverson breached five SRA principles – principles 4,5,6,7 and 8 – which he admitted. The tribunal ordered that Daverson pay a £20,000 fine and costs of £3,890.